I have interacted with many managers who have previously attended several management courses and yet still underperform. In coaching some of these managers, I have concluded that they have heard and understood the principles of good management often times from very reputable international sources. What they are missing is the “how to” unless they have been fortunate to have worked under a good manager who has coached them to make sure that they know how to do their job.

Whether this is your first attempt at management or taking on a new management assignment, the task can be daunting at first. In my experience, the first several months of your first or new managerial assignment are frenetic, and you can find yourself in a reactive mode most of the time unless you focus all of your efforts on the following three activities.

1. Take control of your agenda

Your staff will bring you most all of their problems and complaints, probe your competence and motives, and challenge your decisions. Most all of their issues will be critically important and urgent in their minds and they will expect your immediate attention. It is for this reason that I emphasize the need to focus first on strategy (See http://graffeoandassociates.com/archives/2300). It is important to have a clear view of what your strategy is and have translated that strategy into performance goals that, if achieved, will guarantee success. Then the critical part is to communicate and get buy in of the strategy from your staff.

  • Develop a clear view of your strategy
  • Translate your strategy into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) objectives that, if accomplished, will lead to success of your strategy
  • Communicate and get but in of your strategy, objectives, and priorities from your staff

2. Get Organized

The scarcest resource in any organization is a manager’s time. There will always be much more work to do then you have time for. It is imperative that you get organized and increase your productivity. Remember that no one can manage time. Time management is a misnomer. The minutes and hours will tick away regardless of your management skills. What you can do is focus the majority of your energy on those activities that will move you toward achieving your objectives. This means developing a system to prioritize your activities by importance first then urgency. There are many organizational systems available to help with acquiring, processing, storing and retrieving information from which to make decisions. I particularly like David Allen’s book Getting Things Done (https://gettingthingsdone.com).

  • Manage your energy, not your time
  • Prioritize your important and urgent tasks for effectiveness
  • Use a system to process information to make decisions efficiently

3. Focus most of your attention on your staff

This step may be the most difficult for new managers as it requires a change in mindset. You must change from thinking about “Me” to thinking about “We”. You are no longer just a doer you are a manager. Managing is an active verb and is REAL work. These are the activities that will insure your success as a manager.

  • Surround yourself with talented and motivated staff aligned with your vision and values – The foundation of a manager’s success depends on the quality and productivity of the staff that reports to him
  • Set high performance standards starting with yourself – The quality of work, speed of progress, and culture of the organization starts with and is highly dependent on the standards of the organization’s leader
  • Critically, honestly and frequently evaluate performance – Take on the mindset of a performance coach rather than a boss.
  • Coach up your high performers – If you want to grow your organization, grow your staff
  • Marginalize your low performers – Determine whether the cause is lack of motivation, undeveloped skills, or insufficient talent and take corrective action.

When the going gets tough remember that there is no greater professional satisfaction than to lead your staff to both collective achievement and personal success. Try it, you’ll like it!